BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Traveling east on Highway 4 from Brownsville and heading to Boca Chica Beach you pass intermittent patches of dense brush and perhaps notice scattered verdant green hills on distant tidal flats.
These lomas or little hills are unique geological formations found in only three locations in the world, Australia, Africa, and South Texas are perhaps the best wildlife habitat remaining in the Rio Grande Valley.
The lomas were formed over centuries from wind-blown silt or clay particles deposited by the Rio Grande. With the periodic drying of tidal flats, the prevailing south wind over time formed small rises, which eventually became covered with vegetation creating unique islands of habitat.
With the sprawling development of SpaceX and rapid expansion of the Port, including a new road linking the port to Highway 4, the historic lomas are increasingly threatened.
There are only some 12 of these lomas north of Highway 4, and most are on Brownsville Navigation District property, currently managed under a lease agreement with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service forming the current 4,600 Loma Ecological Preserve overseen by Bryan Winton, manager of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
“Really the best of the best that we have left are actually on Port of Brownsville property, that are north of Highway 4 south of the ship channel, and those nine lomas that we manage for the port for 40 years are coming up for expiration or hopefully renewal. So, it would really be important if the port could work with us and see those lomas protected in perpetuity because they are the best of the best,” said Winton.
Thus far port officials have shown no inclination to renew conservation of the lomas when their lease agreement expires in 2023 and in 2012 removed the 575-acre Loma Potrero Cercado from protection for the development of a failed LNG gas liquefaction and export terminal.